Armando Bacot of North Carolina is now the Tar Heels’ MVP

CHAPEL HILL, NC — For now, it’s the same as always: Armando Paco thrusts his hands in the air, catches a loose basketball, and coolly blocks it.

Normal recoil.

Except for this one — which Bacot fumbled a minute into at 7 p.m. Saturday, with 6:54 left to play in North Carolina’s eventual 80-69 win over NC State — it was anything but.

It was Packot’s 1,220th career rebound, and it is the one that propelled him past Tyler Hansbrough, and into first all-time in North Carolina program history.

“Now he’s just really sinking,” Backout said. “(Hansbrough) is one of the greatest players of all time, and being able to outrun him means the world.”

Becoming the all-time leader of a college program in anything is clearly an accomplishment. But in blue blood like North Carolina? Where Hansborough, Antown Jamison, James Worthy, Sam Perkins, etc… appeared… well, this one Is that true say nothing. Just look at the company Bacot is partnering with now, and it will be forever:

Best UNC rebounds ever

Noun seasons Bouncing balls in the athletic track average recoil Most of them in one season My double double

Armando Pacote *






Tyler Hansbrough






Sam Perkins






George Lynch






Billy Cunningham






Kennedy Mix






Brice Johnson






Anthony Jamison






Mitch Kupchak






Brad Dougherty







And as if Bacot topping these guys wasn’t impressive enough, consider some legends at all Not In the top 10 at UNC: Worthy, Eric Montross, JR Reed, Sean May, Rasheed Wallace, Mike O’Quinn, Brendan Haywood, and Tyler Zeller. Just looking at that list, something May said earlier this week immediately comes to mind. “We’re doing the best job with the big boys in the country, period,” said Paco’s current center coach, and 2005 Final Four first-team member. “I think that spans decades, right?”

He has a point. Through the ages—from Dean Smith to Roy Williams and now Hubert Davis—game-destroying characters have been as much a part of North Carolina basketball’s DNA as the Four Corners offense, passer-signaling, or trademark logo sewn into every uniform. your guide? Just look at the front row of rafters at Smith Center. Of the seven retired numbers in the program’s history, three have been big men: Hansborough, Worthy, and Jamieson.

Now, this record doesn’t automatically put Bacot in the rarefied air of that trio. But to call him one of the best bigwigs to ever come across Chapel Hill? This is more than reasonable, considering its size from the historical markers:

• Most doubles in a UNC career, with 23 points and 18 rebounds against NC State on Saturday. He is now at 61, passing Billy Cunningham.
• One of two Tar Heels in the past 50 years (the other being May) to average a double-double in a career.
• Most rebounds (511) by a Tar Heels in a single season, and the second most by any college player in a single season since 1985-1986.
• Most doubles in a single season (31), tying David Robinson’s all-time NCAA record.
• First player in college basketball history to record six double-doubles in a single NCAA Tournament.

It’s a lot.

“It’s part of the family,” Jamison said. “To be the best that ever does, as far as freshness is concerned, give a man his glory.”

Seeing Bacot now is a testament to the work the former five-star recruit did. In one of his first open sports sessions at UNC, before his freshman season, Bacot remembers getting along with Hansbrough — and getting a quick lesson in the physicality required for success. “I ended up going to the hospital,” Backout said this week. “I had to get stitches in my mouth. It opened my entire mouth, broke my teeth and all that.”

Hansbrough, who has kept in touch with Bacot since then, says he’s always admired the Richmond, Virginia native… even thinking it too early (and unintentional).

“He’s a striker,” Hansbrough said. “Armando has really improved in his strength over the years, and the ability to connect. From his first year to now, how he handles fitness and communication day and night.”

Per KenPom, as a junior on Williams’ penultimate team, Bacot had the 58th best defensive rebound percentage nationally, a metric he had only improved over his four years. To do so while sharing forward minutes in his first two seasons with Garrison Brooks, Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler talked about Bacot’s natural ability to get on the board.

So, what makes this ability? Ask Hansbrough, May, or Jamison, and all three point to the same two things: your style and your desire for it.

The first is computable, or at least visually identifiable. May says he and Backout work on multiple granular aspects of the bounce, such as tracking angles off the rim and “carving out space” around the basket. “If you’re on the other side of the ledge, that’s your side. You carve out that whole space, and you don’t let the guys get in you and get around you,” May said. “For a lot of the big guys, they tend to stay on the other guys’ backs; it does a good job of getting rid of people.” Part of this is Bacot’s 6-11, 235-pound frame, but it’s also his ability and mobility at this size, for dodging or avoiding boxes.

Armando Bacot needed 17 rebounds to pass Tyler Hansbrough for the career rebounding list on Saturday. Scored 18. (Bob Donnan/USA Today)

Jamison said one of the things he focused most on during his playing days was knowing specific pitchers, and where their errors tended to come from different places on the field. “Having a knack for where you can hit the ball — like players who shoot into the corner, if he’s going to be short and long — and just trying to get into position,” Jamieson said. “When you watch (Bacot), that’s one of the things you see him doing a great job: putting himself in a position to read where the bounce is coming from.” That also includes Bacot’s own errors, which account for a large portion of his career boards. In fact, if anything best represents his growth over four seasons, it’s his offensive rebound numbers. According to KenPom, Bacot is currently ranked 14th nationally and No. 1 in the ACC in offensive rebounding percentage, the highest of his career.

Hansbrough points out another thing he and Bacot have in common: pure strength, especially in the lower body. “A big part of my game has been to be strong. So you have to box, get the right stances, and be tough,” Hansbrough said. A shoulder injury kept him out of the Virginia Tech game, and he sprained his ankle in the first three minutes against Virginia—continuing to excel on his second jumps, even if those rebounds didn’t result in baskets made. It’s part of the reason, according to KenPom, that Bacot drops 6.8. fouls per 40 minutes, best in the ACC and average 23rd nationally.

But there is also the matter of Paco’s mentality. his wish. And that, even more than his artistic inclinations or size, is what impresses some of UNC’s all-time best seniors.

Jamison likens Paco’s tenacity to a few of his former NBA contemporaries: Reggie Evans, Ben Wallace, even Dennis Rodman. Bacot’s size is larger than any of those three, but Jamison said his refusal to refuse is the same.

“If you don’t have that mentality, it doesn’t make a difference. I know a lot of players who have the physical qualities to be incredible players – size, speed, anticipation – but mentally, it wasn’t a priority (for them),” Jamieson said. part of (Bakut’s) identity now; I mean, you’d be surprised if you saw Armando up there without a double-double.”

He’s always had that mindset, Backout said, and while that’s likely the case, both Davis and May point to a few specific moments in his career where his trajectory seemed to skyrocket. For May, the first came at the end of Paco’s sophomore season, when he was “starting to find out who he is as a player.” Playing behind Brooks as a freshman helped instill the value of rebounding, May said, because it was the Paquette’s way to the ground early on. The same sentiment applies to playing alongside Sharpe as a sophomore, and realizing he could post similar numbers. Davis points to his team’s victory over Virginia last season, when Backout scored 22 rebounds, as a watershed moment. “It felt like a lightbulb had gone out,” said Davis. “That he could be one of the best players in the country, that he could take it to a different level.”

To start the season, though, Bacot recorded single-digit rebounds in four of UNC’s first six games. Then came his shoulder injury against Indiana and the missed game against Virginia Tech—UNC’s fourth straight loss at that point, and one that knocked the Tar Heels out of the top twenty-five. Since then, though? Bacot averaged 11.2 rebounds per game, looking every bit as strong as he was throughout the team’s run in the 2022 NCAA Tournament. The switch has been flipped again, if you will.

Saturday was the latest example of this, but it certainly won’t be the last. it can not be. Not if North Carolina wants to rejoin the top 25, win the conference, or—most importantly—get back into the Final Four, Backout’s stated goal for the season.

At this point, especially if the Tar Heels can go on for another run, it’s only fair to wonder how far Bacot can actually extend his record. With at least 12 more games guaranteed this season — 11 regular season, plus at least one in the ACC Tournament — it’s possible for the UNC star center to make his mark out of reach. Assuming his current season averages 11.6 rebounds per game, we’re talking about 1,350 career boards by early March.

In this case? Not only will Bacot own the program’s all-time tag; He would have a chance to finish in the top 10 nationally this season in the modern era (since 1985-1986).

There is no controversy surrounding the Bacot as the Tar Heel icon of all time. Perhaps not at the level of Jamison, Hansbrough, or Worthy, but certainly as one of the best senior players – and players – to ever come through Chapel Hill. Being named the ACC Player of the Season, or being named an All-American, would only add to his individual legacy.

But what’s more important to Paco, especially with securing such a long-standing record?

The one thing his current coach can still keep: a national title ring.

May said of Backout getting the record, “Oh, he’s got my bragging rights, sure, but I still have one more thing to get done—and once he does, we can have another conversation.”

(Tyler Hansbrough, left, and Armando Pacotte, top photo: Bob Donan/USA Today)


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